Friday, January 29, 2010

Cheating: Turning a DSLR into a powerful motion picture camera.

When ever people see this type of footage of mine,

they always go "ooooh" and "ahhh" and then it never fails... the question arises; "how'd you do that?"

Of course there are occasions where simply put, you let a camera roll for 20 minutes up to an hour (tape length) or so and then speed things up in post production. This is somewhat a long process and sometimes can yield weird results as well. For me, this does work after hours of experimentation, fighting with artifacts, hick-ups and ...

But a really clean way and also a very super hi-res way is with my handy dandy Canon Rebel series DSLR. But really any brand of DSLR will work as long as it has a so called "bulb mode". Sort of. Let me explain why you don't want to settle for less than that feature. Please note, I am not talking about the new DSLR's that also have HD video features. I am talking about "run of the mill" DSLR's that only take still shots.

Look, I am not telling you to go out and by a new camera for the sake of a new camera if you don't have that "bulb mode" - you can still do this process. But I can tell you, you will get some weird results by going fully auto on everything.

By not having "bulb mode" and going auto everything, you will get different light settings (brightness), shutter speed, f-stop, focal length etc.. for each frame depending on the action in frame. If a dark car is in frame, the camera will compensate and try to balance the whole shot... but that car no longer exists in the next frame, so guess what? Understand? It will take a bit to get used to. Of course sometimes this might actually make for some good "grunge style" stuff. :) Here is an example of this:

So, by having bulb mode, you can now concisely control the consistency from frame to frame. Hence, you won't get any of those irregular bright flashing, drive you insane and may trigger an epileptic attack feature. Here is what a smooth session looks like with everything manually locked in:

I know this is a subjective call, but this last or prior clip really works even with the stray light and shadows. Hence the changes in light had no effect on the camera settings because they were locked in. Cool? Or in other words, if this was on automatic, it would have been a good half hour of my life that I would never have gotten back.

So moving right along, what else do you need to be successful with this method? So here are some camera possibilities:

Here is a very important, no, mandatory device you will need - and make sure it works with your camera model. These devices are called timers, remotes, intervalometers, incronometers and probably many other scientific names.. but here is a good variety for starters:

And last but not least, you need something to hold that camera super still:

As an alternative to tripods, I have been known to use sandbags, the type we use as weights or counter weights on lighting equipment and I have also used a plastic bag filled with packing popcorn, but the best is a strong cloth bag filled with real popcorn seeds. This will easily "grab" and hold the camera nicely as long as you don't overfill it. If you use a bag of this nature, do not set it on a car hood, roof or anything that can even slightly move or shake from the wind (or people getting in or out of, while slamming the door). (Experience talking here!) - It's a real problem when you have the camera moving, particularly if you use things like, oh, let's say a 400mm zoom lens.

In any case - this is just one method to make your digital still shot camera become a very powerful video camera. Very cool indeed. Stay tuned.. there will be more to come on this topic.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Lie to Me? - Not just a TV show...

Perhaps you have seen that television show called Lie to Me (opens a new window) with Dr. Cal Lightman (Tim Roth)? Amazingly enough, there is a real science behind this whole thingamabob. Actually, it is very accurate as well. You see, your face, your eyes, your lips and even your forehead all talk very clearly even when you are not. You could just simply be sitting there, not uttering a word and yet, you like everyone else is an open book.

So why am I writing about this? Well... as I am always on the quest for new challenges in regards to shooting b-roll or stock footage, I made this exact science my new challenge. Sort of. I actually had been doing this for quite a while, but never really thought about it this way. The challenge; take a face, and get that face in umpteen various moods, emotions, feelings, reactions and every other Human Emotional Verb (HEV - a new acronym that I just made up.) you can think of. I like that acronym - don't knock it! It actually has real meaning. Now to get those meanings on film... hmmm..
Challenging, but not unrealistic. See for yourself:

Or simply click here and look at the entire collection of this specific and cool concept.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A humorous look at reality...

Today I was cleaning up some stuff in my email. I hate doing that. I hate dealing with all the spam, spam filters, spammers and .... well you probably know what I mean.

Looking in my spam filter(s) folder(s) which I encourage everyone to do now and then, I found stuff that should never have reached those folders! It is quite annoying when you set up "rules" and the F&$^%ing software does stuff on its own and changes the "rules", again. This comes from inharmonious multiplex filtration organisms. Or what I call IMFO. Sounds close to INFO, but it's not. It is a 3 year old saying INFO actually. Okay, I made this all up. There is no such thing. IMFO.. ha ha - or is there? Actually that's what I call it. It simply has to do with the first spam filter on the server, then another 2 filters in the local system. It is almost as if they are fighting each other. Screw it. That's not what this article is about anyway. Here is the real topic:

So I find some stuff in my spam folders that shouldn't have been there in the first place. Stuff from the really cool and informative Creative Cow (opens a new window). So I grabbed all the last few month's Creative Cow emails, and marked them as "not spam", and "not junk" and now going forward hopefully, I will get these things again. But here is what was actually fun about this. It gave me a chance to review the various emails and have a quick look. Of course humor is always good. I like that. So here is one from last July. This is a funny reminder of what we get to deal with day in and day out. Quite simply, it it probably the most realistic version of a contract ever! :)

Template contract for typical beginners. Modify to your specific needs.

I, (name here) henceforth to be referred to as "the dummy", will contract to work on your ill-defined project for an unspecified amount of hours, with no limitations on how many times I will re-do the work, until you are satisfied, for a single, fixed, fee, payable by third-party out-of-state check, only once and long after you have been completely satisfied, and after you yourself (henceforth to be known as "the client") have made any and all profit from the use of this work, but not if the project incurs no profits. Profits to be determined by Client's verbal say-so. Client will decide when and if to pay for services rendered on a flexible net-2000 basis, with free extensions.

(will take you to the actual thread at Creative Cow and opens a new window)


Friday, January 8, 2010

The "jobs" quandary... really, how's it looking?

I stumbled across this interesting graphical representation of just how fierce the situation is in regards to the economic impact on jobs in the US. A very simple to understand graphical display of the job cycle in the regions of the US - when you get to this page - just hit the play button - no need to explain further. (clicking on this link will open a new window.)

Okay, so if you actually looked at this graphical presentation, you might actually start feeling a bit queasy. I sure did. But regardless, life goes on and so should we. So I started a new idea, (actually fairly old in my mind, but was too pre-occupied with other stuff to implement sooner.)

I started running an ad on one of the common or popular places. This will not only be interesting to see how people will respond, but it will also give me a good idea of where people's heads are at. The ad is really simple in concept. Being a stock shooter of sorts, I am always looking out for new faces, people, things etc.. But now I figure it would behoove me to actually let them come to me. After all, there is an actual potential fiscal upside for anyone that gets involved. I will be doing most of the work. And all I am asking is that they follow through with one thing... to show up when you say you are going to show up.

Maybe I am also planning a mission to disprove the myth that all models, actors and wannabe's are flakes. I'll keep you posted. But in the mean time, I keep shooting and producing - that's what I do regardless. Here is some of my latest goods from just last night (Tucson at dusk available at Pond5 Stock Footage ):

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New Year - New Thoughts - New ambitions...

Happy New Year everyone! Okay. Now that's done. :)

I wanted this blog to be somewhat informative and newsworthy. Looking back over the prior year, it seems to be a bit bear naked. Meaning... not enough interesting information perhaps? In any case - this year that will (hopefully) change! And why will it change? All because of something that flew into my domain on New Year's day.

You see, sometimes while checking out the comment boards or forums at one of my favorite places, Pond5 Stock Footage (clicking here opens a new window so that you don't lose this place.), I get really lucky. My goal is to always look for gold. No, not that kind... let's call it a golden nugget. On the first day of this year, I stumbled on this thread in the forum (clicking here opens a new window so that you don't lose this place.) where a fellow artist asked for help. Not uncommon. That's what we are all here for. To help each other. I digress. In any case, I clicked on the link of his video and looked at it. While watching I noticed some pretty cool stuff around it. Another blog! Of course his verbiage in the video was pretty enlightening as well.

Fast forward: So I watched the video, voted for it, but was detrimentally sidetracked during the process. I was more interested in all the stuff "around" it. Hence, I was intrigued, excited, amused and ... In any case, I wanted to get the book now! Only problem - it was New Years Day! Damn it. No stores open. Amazon was still several days for delivery. And so on..

Fast Forward 2: January 2nd - got it! The book now in my hands from a local book store. (Got it off the "blow out shelf" too - as that wasn't a sign!) - In any case, I couldn't put it down. Read the whole thing. Got inspired. Got motivated. Even did the first batch of exercises. (This blog entry being one of them.)

To save us all a lot of time: Just get the book:

Now, why the heck would I write a blog about this and what the heck does it have to do with video, photo, stock etc..? Absolutely everything! Even us guys that think we know it all, need a refresher and a wake up call every once in a while. So this was mine and it couldn't have been at a better time. Thanks again holtocw (clicking here opens a new window so that you don't lose this place.) (a.k.a. Chuck Holton of (clicking here opens a new window so that you don't lose this place.)

Adobe - 2 Years (and a Half) Later - Great Stuff!

So here we are a few years later and Adobe didn't implode! On the contrary! Adobe is doing just fine and dandy. As a matter of fact,...